Essential Japan

Tour Commences: Tokyo | Tour Finishes: Osaka | 10 day itinerary | From £1,885pp

Get your fix of Japanese culture with temples, sushi and shopping in Tokyo before soaking up Kanazawa’s crazy samurai culture. Get down with your world history at Hiroshima, spy geishas in Kyoto’s Gion district and get your Tina Turner on at an Osaka karaoke bar. Whatever happens, you’ll be sipping sake like a pro by the end of this trip. Note: This trip is only for 18 to 29-year-olds

Why you’ll love this trip

  • So many great destinations and so much free time to see them your way. All the benefits of group travel with a leader and new buddies to explore with, without having to pay for anything you don’t want to do
  • Immerse yourself in all things Japanese right from the get go in the varied neighbourhoods of Tokyo. From the geek subculture of Akihabara, historical Asakusa and Ueno, to the wild side of fashion in Harajuku and the nightlife of Roppongi – each suburb is almost like a city of its own
  • Shed your inhibitions and soak in an onsen – the traditional hot springs turned public baths
  • Rail passes are included, allowing you to zip between cities at bullet speed
  • Hiroshima Peace Park & Museum is a sobering, but vital, destination for all travellers to Japan to gain insight into tragic events of the nation’s past
  • Spot a geisha or two in the famed Gion District or get zen in a temple garden in Kyoto
  • Live your samurai fantasies in feudal-era Kanazawa
  • You can’t leave Japan without having a night out at a karaoke bar. Trust us, they will check at immigration

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1 - 2: Tokyo

Konnichiwa! Welcome to Japan.

As travellers are arriving from all over the world, there are no activities planned for day 1. The group meeting will take place at 6pm this evening.

To introduce you to Tokyo at night your leader will take you for walk around one of Tokyo’s most popular hubs. Join your leader and new travel buddies for an optional first dinner together!

Tokyo is a dynamic, modern hub, the thriving capital of an ancient land. Contradictions are everywhere, as hi-tech gadgetry and neon lights play an integral part in the lives of a population steeped in tradition.

Please remember that there are many options for travellers to choose from on this tour to make the most of all your free time. While we have quoted the approximate cost of some of the most popular activities throughout, these do not include costs of getting to or from sights. Public transport in Japan is economical, efficient and not only a great way to get around, it’s the best way to go local!

This itinerary is far from a hand-holding, all inclusive trip, so enjoy the freedom and indulge in some raw fish!

In the morning, head out exploring with your group leader in the Shibuya area.

Look down on one of the busiest intersections in the world at Shibuya station and visit the statue of Hachikō the famous loyal dog. Next we indulge our eyes if not our bellies visiting a depachika food hall where vendors sell everything from bento boxes for lunch to formal gifts and everyday groceries. Grab a picnic lunch (optional) as we are heading to Yoyogi Park, home to many events from the first Japan Olympics.

Afterwards we visit Meiji Jingu Shrine. Enter via a massive Torii (gate) and the sights and sounds of the busy city are replaced by a tranquil forest. We continue our journey with a visit to Harajuku, the home of quirky youth pop culture.

The rest of the day is free for you to explore.

If you are a lover of cats visit the Gotokuji Cat Temple!  Maneki Neko (the beckoning cat) are known for good luck and prosperity not only in Japan but all across Asia.  Perhaps re-visit your childhood with a magical day spent at Tokyo Disney or Disney Sea theme parks (tickets can be bought at JR ticket counters, convenience stores, online).  Or perhaps get the group together for the final night in Tokyo and experience the Robot Cafe in Shinjuku!  You can catch a 3 hour show full of neon lights, lasers, robotics, video screens and dancers.

Day 3 - 4: Kanazawa

This morning we speed through central Japan on a bullet train bound for Kanazawa. This city is best known for Kenroku-en, a 17th-century gardens. Kanazawa is also known for being the home of samurai – it boasts beautifully preserved samurai and geisha districts, historic temples and awesome markets you can shop and eat your way around.  After checking into our hotel perhaps go and explore Kenroku-en Garden and Kanazawa Castle Park. The castle is free to enter however the gardens have an entry fee of 310JPY. A bus pass for the day in Kanazawa will cost you approximately 500JPY. Tonight is a free evening for you to explore the streets and indulge in Kanazawa’s izakaya and famous seafood.

Explore Kanazawa by foot on a walking tour of the Higashi Chaya district. Get lost among the Geisha in the alleyways and admire the traditional Chaya houses, known locally as places of tradition, feasts and entertainment. Enjoy a traditional tea ceremony at one of the local tea houses, if tea’s your thing, and then the afternoon is free for you to explore on your own. Everything is super accessible in Japan so you’ll do a fair bit of walking, so be sure to pack a comfy pair of shoes to get around in.

Day 5 - 6: Kyoto

Today catch a train through the Japan alps to Kyoto – once the imperial capital of Japan and one of the most beautiful cities in the country. With over 2000 temples, shrines and gardens, Kyoto is a great place to get lost in – so get out, walk the streets and soak up the wonderful atmosphere in your free time. Kyoto has a great bus network linking all its key sites, so hop on the bus to also get around.

Perhaps visit the magnificent, gold-plated Kinkaku-ji Temple with its expansive grounds in Kyoto’s northwest, or maybe Nijo Castle, the feudal-era castle famous for its squeaking ‘nightingale floors’ designed to alert inhabitants to approaching ninja. In the early evening, hook up with your leader for a walk through Kyoto’s famous Gion district, the heart of the city’s geisha culture. This is where Kyoto’s immaculately made-up geiko (the Kyoto name for geisha) perform and entertain private clients in small teahouses tucked away down tiny back streets.

Join your leader this morning for a walk in the wooded hills of Inari Mountain, famous for its Shinto ‘fox temple’ and atmospheric red torii gates, a quintessential Japan sight and must-see for keen photographers. The afternoon is free for you to explore and your leader can give you recommendations on what to see and how to get there. It’s your last night in Kyoto, so make sure you try some of Kyoto’s famed Kyo-ryori (‘Kyoto cuisine’), or wander the food market of Nishiki in the city’s heart to see the ingredients that make up Kyo-ryori or, in true Japanese tradition, hit the karaoke bar and show off your impressive pipes.

Cycling is another great way to explore Kyoto. You can hire bikes and helmets from one of the many bike shops in town with cost usually from 1000JPY/day up.

Day 7 - 8: Hiroshima

Hiroshima is a bustling metropolis with a tragic history, approximately two hours on the bullet train from Kyoto. Once here, your leader will take you to visit Peace Park and the ruins of the A-Bomb Dome building, one of 11 structures left partially standing as a reminder of the destruction of nuclear war following the nuclear bomb blast on 6 August 1945. The Peace Park contains monuments and a sobering and very informative museum dedicated to Hiroshima and international peace. In the evening, try its most famous dish – okonomiyaki (savoury pancake of cabbage, meat or seafood) – grilled in front of you on a sizzling hotplate.

Today jump on a local train and ferry to spend the day at the nearby island of Miyajima with its famous ‘floating’ Torii Gate and the grand Itsukushima-jinja Shrine. Hike through the woods to the peak of Mt Misen for some stunning views of the Inland Sea stretching far out below you. Be sure to watch out for inquisitive and eternally hungry deer that roam the island. Back in Hiroshima and enjoy a free evening tonight.

 

Day 9 - 10: Osaka

Travel by bullet train to Osaka, and what better way to finish our trip than in a city with the motto ‘kuidaore’ (translation: ‘eat until you drop’!).  We recommend you try Osaka’s takoyaki (a delicious grilled octopus dish) which Osaka is renowned for!

Osaka is Japan’s unofficial culinary capital, with sprawling shopping hubs and tiny backstreets overflowing with restaurants and bars serving up local delicacies as well as Japan’s answer to fast food. Notably, Osaka is credited with the first kaiten-zushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurants, after its inventor – the owner of a sushi restaurant with staffing issues – watched beer bottles on a conveyor belt at the nearby Asahi brewery and thought it might be a good way to solve this problem!

With your leader enjoy a walking tour around the popular Dotombori district which is the city’s most famous shopping, food and entertainment district. At night it is lit by hundreds of neon lights and mechanical signs, including the famous Glico Running Man sign and Kani Doraku crab sign.

Thrill seekers are sure to find adventure at Universal Studios theme park and for those of you wanting to try your hand at a local skill, try a taiko drum lesson or, if you’re feeling like a little relaxation, indulge yourself at Spa World, and try a traditional Japanese Onsen. Embrace the nakedness.

If shopping is your cup of tea, take in some of the city’s landmarks, including the wonderful Kuromon covered market and pick up some final kitchen gadgets (or plastic food!) at the quirky Dogusuji Arcade.

There are no activities planned for Day 10 and you are able to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time is 10 am and if you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.

 

Important Details

Travellers on Intrepid trips are required to produce proof of full vaccination against COVID-19.

  1. A Single Supplement to have your own room is not currently available on this trip due to limited rooms at many of our properties
  2. A 7-day Japan Rail Pass is included on this trip. This pass will be validated on Day 3 of the trip with the assistance of the tour leader, but you won’t be able to use the pass prior to that. An extension to 14-day or 21-day pass is available to purchase, but you can only use the extended pass for travels after the trip. Please note that you can’t purchase the Rail Pass or extensions once in Japan
  3. Transport from one destination to the next is included, however to get around to optional activities in your free time you will need to buy your own public transport pass – your leader will assist you with the best value options
  4. We are tapping into the booming hostel scene in Japan. In Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, you won’t be staying in twin share hotels, but rather they’ll be cool hangouts with shared facilities. Please note you may stay in mix-gender dorms in the hostels
  5. We are currently unable to book pre or post tour accommodation at our start & finish point hotels due to limited room availability. We recommend booking a hotel of your choice through your travel agent or an online booking engine if you are planning to stay longer in Japan
  6. It is essential you pack light and compact for rail travel in Japan. From May 2020 there will be size restrictions for luggage on Shinkansen trains. Luggage over 160-250cm may require an additional 1000 JPY oversize luggage fee per train journey. Luggage over 251cm will NOT be permitted on the Shinkansen trains at all. Please notify your tour leader at your Welcome Meeting if your luggage is over 160-250cm so they can make the necessary arrangements
  7. Renovation works on Miyajima’s famous floating torii gate started in June 2019. During the renovation works, the torii gate is covered up under a partially transparent scaffolding. Furthermore, a bridge is being built on the left side of the gate (when viewed from the shrine) to aid the renovation works. A date for the completion of the renovation works has not been set yet, but the works are expected to take at least one year

What’s Included:

This 10 day tour starts at £1,885 per person and includes…

  • Meals – 1 dinner
  • Transfers – Public bus, metro, train, bullet train
  • Accommodation – Multishare hostel (5 nights), twinshare hotel/ryokan (4 nights)
  • Tokyo – Meiji Jingu Shrine
  • Tokyo – Shibuya walking tour
  • Tokyo – Yoyogi Park
  • Tokyo – Harajuku street
  • Kanazawa – Higashi Chaya District walking tour
  • Kyoto – Gion District walk
  • Kyoto – Fushimi Inari-Taisha
  • Hiroshima – Peace Park & A – Bomb Dome
  • Hiroshima – Peace Museum
  • Hiroshima – Miyajima Island
  • Osaka – Dotombori District walking tour

Price based on selected departures (please note prices & availability are subject to change).

Please enquire below and one of Intrepid Travel’s destination experts will be in contact to discuss this trip.

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